National Mammography Day: Highlighting the Importance of Mammograms

National Mammography Day is observed annually on the third Friday in October as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We spoke with Dr. White, M.D., Lead Breast Imaging Physician at Diagnostic Imaging Associates and Hillcrest South, to learn more about the importance of mammograms.

The most common misconception Dr. White hears when it comes to mammograms is that they are painful. According to Dr. White, “Everyone’s pain threshold is different, but the compression performed during a mammogram is most often described as only temporary discomfort.” She also shared that some women think mammograms do not help, noting “Regular mammograms are the gold standard and best test we have to find breast cancer early. A mammogram can detect a breast cancer up to three years before it can be felt. This can greatly improve prognosis if the cancer is detected earlier.” Another misconception Dr. White has encountered is that some women believe mammograms cause cancer, but she clarified, “This risk of harm from a mammogram is extremely low as they use very small doses of radiation – similar to getting an x-ray.”

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer are considered high-risk and should begin getting mammograms earlier than the recommended age. “Strong family history often includes those with a first-degree relative that has been diagnosed. If a patient believes they have a strong family history of breast cancer, they should discuss when to start screening with their doctors,” Dr. White says. “Doctors can perform a risk assessment tool for the development of invasive breast cancer to determine if a patient is high risk or not.”

Dr. White also believes that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is very important, noting, “It  increases our awareness and early detection through regular screening. Regular screening with mammography has been found to detect cancer early, when it is most treatable.” She adds that, “Breast cancer deaths continue to decline thanks to our heightened awareness and early detection. Mammography has great potential to save lives. The American College of Radiology-ACR recommends that all women age 40 and over have annual mammograms. If it has been over a year since the patient's last mammogram, October is a great month to remind women of the importance of mammography.” 

Dr. White also shared her advice for how patients should prepare to get a mammogram. “A patient should try to go to the same facility every time so mammograms can easily be compared from year to year. This reduces unnecessary callbacks. If a patient has had records at a different facility, try to get those records to bring with you to the new facility or have them sent there, so the old pictures can be compared to the new ones. A mammogram should be scheduled when the breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort, which aids in getting better pictures (try to avoid the week just before your period). On the day of the exam, the patient should not wear deodorant as the deodorant can show up as white spots on the x-ray.”

During the month of October, Hillcrest South is offering screening mammography every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. To schedule an appointment, please call 918-294-4700.